What Makes a Good Higher Education Sponsorship Opportunity?


Sep 30, 2021
What Makes a Good Higher Education Sponsorship Opportunity 1

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What makes your student organization unique? Is it your compelling mission? Or maybe it’s the fantastic students that work together to put on the organization’s many events. Whatever makes your group special is the key element to finding the best higher education sponsorship opportunity.

As you begin to search for higher education sponsorship opportunities, it might seem like an overwhelming task, but finding the proper organization to partner with your student group will make your sponsorship one of the finest. Consider these factors when identifying the best sponsor for your student organization.

Better Understanding Sponsorships

Before getting to the meat of unpacking what makes an excellent sponsorship opportunity, you first need to understand a sponsorship itself. At its most basic form, sponsorship is a marketing discipline that connects your student organization and the sponsor’s brand. This connection provides a mutually beneficial relationship and structure of advertising for both parties.

Typically the sponsor will provide financial services, media representation, goods, or additional support in return for you agreeing to represent their brand in your student organization. Whether it’s displaying their logo on your club t-shirts or promoting their products in your sorority meetings, you need to hold up your end of the bargain or risk losing the sponsorship.

Note that sponsorship opportunities are different than club fundraisers. Fundraisers are typically a one-time event – a dinner or a dance to raise funds for your organization or a charity. When approaching businesses for a fundraiser, you ask them to donate money once, and then the relationship ends after the event. This is a much different relationship from a sponsorship where the relationship is ongoing. 

How Sponsorships are Mutually Beneficial

If done correctly, sponsorships are mutually beneficial agreements for both student organizations and sponsors. Obtaining sponsorship for your student organization has multiple benefits. Sponsors bring credibility to your club, garnering increased awareness to your purpose. They also increase student interest, helping you add new members to your organization. 

Likewise, sponsors benefit from the arrangement, often gaining positive brand recognition when your organization endorses its product. Additionally, a sponsorship attracts a whole new line of customers. It also keeps its current customers happy with the knowledge that the company invests in community efforts. Giving back to the community in tangible ways might even draw new employees to the company. When companies donate to your organization, they will receive a tax deduction – just another benefit of sponsorships.

What Type of Sponsorship is Right for Your Organization

Many corporations will choose to utilize several different sponsorship opportunities when working with your higher education club. Sometimes the business will primarily use one or will diversify among the four types. It’s up to you to determine the best fit for your student organization and then communicate it to your potential sponsor.

  1. Financial: These sponsorships give financial support to student groups. Know that financial sponsorships typically offer the most flexibility regarding how student groups access their funds. However, much of this is determined by how you arrange things between your organization and the company. Be aware that there are several rules for receiving money for their student organization in higher education sponsorships. The financial gift can have tax implications on the business side of the support, so this form of sponsorship can be somewhat complicated.
  1. Media: This sponsorship form is all about advertising the brand, whether through TV spots, blog posts, or social media.
  1. In-Kind: These sponsors provide services in place of financial support. For example, if your sponsor were Subway, they would donate sandwiches to your charity dinner.
  1. Promotional: Similar to media sponsorships, these tend to focus on individuals and small groups. 

When looking at the types of sponsorships, it’s essential to identify your student group and what kind of events you regularly sponsor. Do you routinely host dances or charity gatherings? Do the events happen to be costly? Or is your budget relatively frugal? These questions will help you determine which sponsorship is the most appropriate for your student organization.

Get the Best Sponsor for Your Organization

Many companies sponsor student organizations directly or indirectly through financial donations, like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Starbucks, Gatorade, Clif Bar, Nike, and Chik-fil-A. These corporations top a list of 60 sponsors in America. They typically work with neutral student organizations – not overly affiliated with politics or religion. You can consider researching any of these businesses and reaching out for sponsorship.

When determining the best sponsor for your organization, consider the following factors:

  • When looking for a local sponsor, ensure they’re actively involved in your community. You can decide this by checking local news outlets to see if the sponsor has donated to other organizations or participating in community events. Guarantee they receive positive press coverage. If they are an established business, you can also check their Better Business Bureau website or Google reviews for more insight.
  • Make sure that the sponsor brand aligns with your student organization both morally and ethically. Before linking your organization to a business, you’ll want to ensure you share similar values as it could lead to a frustrating partnership if you otherwise don’t. It could also lead to bad publicity for both you and your sponsor. Just imagine the Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter on your campus teaming up with Walmart – that would cause quite a stir.
  • Before settling on your sponsor, you’ll want to establish they’ll be able to support your terms for the sponsorship. You can get a sense of this by doing some research on the company. When you reach the final stages of settling the duration of your sponsorship agreement, ensure the company doesn’t make impossible demands of your organization for your support. If you get the sense this is happening, walk away from the deal. There are other sponsors out there who won’t pressure you with bad terms.

Start first by looking at companies you’d be proud to be linked to. Do your research before settling on a company and committing your organization to a sponsor agreement. Each business may have different criteria for sponsorships based on location, and the organization you are within your college might even come into play.

How to Reach Out to Sponsors

After you’ve identified a couple of promising sponsors, the next step is to do proper outreach. Recruiting a sponsor can be time-consuming. However, attracting the right sponsor is worth the wait. Start reaching out over the summer to get things established before the start of the school year.

Go directly to the business and reach out in person to the marketing department. This is more desirable than talking to someone over the phone. It sets you apart from other students and also helps to establish a relationship with the company immediately. Ensure you start with a story and explain the mission of your student organization. Explain precisely what you what from the sponsor, whether you want a financial arrangement or in-kind sponsorship. Explain how you can represent their brand and why you think your organization and the company would be a good fit.

Keep your conversation clear and brief – make sure you practice in advance and ensure it’s polished. Follow up by email later that day, thanking them for the opportunity to talk. If you don’t hear back from them within the week, feel free to follow up consistently until you receive a firm “no.” Then move on to the following sponsor on your list. Work with your student group to make a plan to tackle this process in a sensible way.

Make it a Good Sponsorship Opportunity

You’ve finally got your first sponsor – congratulations! Before this, you’ve taken steps to discern determine the best form of sponsorship for your group. Taking time to research the company, you can ensure they’re a quality business, investing money and time in your community. You’ve guaranteed that their brand matches your student organization’s values and mission. Finally, you know that the sponsor can fulfill their side of the agreement.

Now, how can you decide that this sponsorship will make a quality experience for your student organization? You’ve done your due diligence when investigating a sponsor and can rest easy in that fact. All that’s left now is for you to uphold your end of the sponsorship agreement. Your student organization must follow through with what you promised your sponsor. By investing and following through on your side of the deal, you’ll make it a good sponsorship opportunity for your student organization.

When you follow through, you show commitment and respect the agreed-upon terms. At the end of the sponsorship, make sure you thank your sponsor. The company will greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness. This is a great way to secure ongoing funding in the future, as the company is much more likely to fund a student organization that keeps its commitments and then goes out of its way to offer thanks.

Work Together to Make a Higher Education Sponsorship Opportunity

Meet with your student organization leaders to do some vision work before deciding which direction to go with higher education sponsorships. You’ll want to have a clear picture of your mission and what sort of sponsorship is the best fit before you start researching potential companies. Know that a good sponsorship is a relationship – both your student group and your team company will work together to bring about a great higher education sponsorship opportunity.

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